Gibraltar is famous for being the last remaining British colony in mainland Europe. Ceded by Spain to Great Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, the three-square-mile peninsula was an important British military base in the western Mediterranean Sea for many years.
Its strategic importance waned with the 20th century, and today Gibraltar's status draws mixed reactions. Spain wants it to be Spanish, though many Gibraltarians want to remain British. The United Nations lists Gibraltar as a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
For travelers, Gibraltar is home to the Rock of Gibraltar, cute monkeys, and some great places for cheap shopping.
Border Control: Do You Need a Passport?
Passports are required for all visitors to Gibraltar, except EU nationals with valid national identity cards. As a general rule, if you need a visa for the U.K., you will for Gibraltar, too.
Gibraltar's border controls are strict, and lines can be tediously long whether you're crossing overland from Spain or flying to Gibraltar International Airport (GIB).
Guided Tours From Malaga
For the most trouble-free visit to Gibraltar, take a guided tour. There are several guided tours from Malaga, Spain to Gibraltar. These involve bus transport to the border, where you will be dropped off (with your guide) and accompanied into Gibraltar.
After exploring Gibraltar all day, your driver will be waiting for you. This is infinitely more convenient than having to book a bus from the Spanish side, as you can never know how long the border crossing will take.
Some guided tours are billed as "shopping tours," which can often be a no-thrills shuttle service to get you to and from Gibraltar. There are also "sightseeing tours," which usually include a tour of the Rock of Gibraltar and a visit to see monkeys.
How to Get There by Bus and Train
If you're heading from Gibraltar into Spain, Spanish buses will take you as far as La Linea de la Concepción, the town on the Spanish side of the border with Gibraltar. From there, you can walk across the border into Gibraltar. Coordinating your bus with the time-consuming border controls is logistically awkward.
The bus is run by Portillo and takes about three hours from Malaga to Gibraltar (very slow compared to a guided tour bus).
If you're traveling by train, you can go as far as Malaga, where you'll need to switch to four-wheeled transportation.
How to Get There by Car
Driving from Spain to Gibraltar is not recommended—a car can be a hassle on The Rock. Take a bus instead. But if you must drive, the 130-kilometer drive from Malaga to Gibraltar takes over one-and-a-half hours, traveling mainly on the AP-7, a toll road.
The Costa del Sol separates Gibraltar from Malaga, so you can stop along the way at beach towns, or take a detour via Ronda to see the spectacular El Tajo gorge. However, this adds quite a lot of time to your journey and would require overnight accommodation in either Ronda or Gibraltar.